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Constraints of Constructivism

Page history last edited by sabjewl@... 13 years, 11 months ago

No Theory is Perfect


Convincing teachers to maintain the momentum of constructivism for quality learning opportunities can be difficult to sustain over time.  Many subject areas need to foster a more traditional transmission teaching method for focus and implementing a wide range of content. 




“Since this is the information age, and our society is rapidly becoming knowledge-based, teachers are faced with the dilemma of too much to cover in too little time” (Cey, 2001, p. 7).  


Constructivism promotes interactive learning experiences in social settings.  Some classroom dynamics, however, are not best suited to a constructivist teaching model.  Classroom management becomes more difficult as students engage in group projects and cooperative learning activities.


Standardized Testing- Is it a true constraint of Constructivism?


Critics of Constructivism think so, what about you?


Please read the following about Assessment and Constructivism and the think about the Discussion Question #2 below.




Constructivists urge educators to assess their students learning through multiple-mechanisms such as Performance Assessment and to not rely on standardized testing as a sole evaluator of knowledge acquisition and understanding.


Critics of the Constructivist principles argue that multiple assessment practices don’t prepare students for the reality they will face when entering college, or completing a standardized entrance exam for a specific program like dentistry for instance.  What is the true reality of this situation?


For Math students, Marshall (2003) states quite eloquently:

‘Mathematics needs to be used. Cramming for the test may well give false results if the mathematics assessed is allowed to atrophy and cannot be used later.’


Traditionalists believe there is not enough emphasis on finding the ‘right answer’. However, Jones (2004) states that, ‘student learning should emphasize applied learning and thinking skills, not just declarative knowledge and basic skills’. When applying the Constructivist philosophy, instruction and assessment must be carefully considered (Dochy & McDowell, 1997).  We must find congruence between learning goals and assessment practices. Constructivist philosophy promotes individualized, student-centered education in order to align learning with the students’ schema.  


The predictive validity of a standardized test must be compromised when teachers teach “to beat the test”. If they are used, standardized exams should be only one of many assessments made of a student’s learning.  Standardized tests should not be used as the sole guide to classroom instruction. After all, tests emphasize reading and writing but let us not forget the importance of listening, speaking and even thinking!


Unfortunately, some standardized test results (FSA) are published and used to “rank” schools in BC. This invariably devalues our primary goal: the education of self-confident, intelligent, thinking individuals, and focuses rather on the ability of our system to turn out those who simply repeat what they are told.  Research suggests that teachers often skew their classroom presentation to meet the standards of these high-stakes tests. Backlashes of high-staked testing can also include administrators and teachers giving answers to students on mathematical exams (Goodnough, 1999). 




  1. Your chance to rant here - give an example of a teaching or learning situation whereby constructivism was not an effective theory of learning and why.  Was the expereince of trying the theory useful or was it entirely fruitless? 

  2. Does standarized testing impede constructivism?  How does it impede this theory?  Is it possible to hold true to constructivist practices in the classroom when there is an increased emphasis and pressure for students to perform on standardized tests?



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